The Liberty women's soccer team looked to start the 2015 season off with a win, Friday night, squaring off with Cal State Fullerton in the opening round of the Fullerton Tournament. Each team went scoreless for over 84 minutes, until Titans midfielder Christian Burkenroad posted a late goal to give Fullerton the 1-0 win.
With the defeat at Titans Stadium, Liberty begins the year 0-1. Fullerton, the 2014 Big West champions, are off to a 1-0 start.
Burkenroad's goal in the 85th minute was set up by a Rebecca Wilson cross on the right side near the baseline. Wilson's cross went into the 18-yard box, allowing Sarah Fajnor to flick a pass to Burkenroad. The midfielder settled the ball on the left side of the box and fired a shot from 12 yards to clinch the contest.
Fullerton outshot Liberty overall, 14-6, and on goal, 7-4. The Titans also held a 7-3 advantage on corner kicks. Liberty sophomore forward Jennifer Knoebel paced the Lady Flames with three shots, two of which were on goal.
Goalkeeper Holly Van Noord made six saves on the night in 90 minutes of action. Fullerton netminder Jennifer Stuart concluded the evening with four saves for the Titans.
"Fullerton is a great opener for Liberty," Liberty Head Coach Jessica Hain stated. "The Big West Conference has good soccer and Fullerton is the two time defending tournament champions. We had good moments, defended passionately, and both teams were dangerous in front of goal. Both goal keepers played well tonight. It was an exciting game."
Hain added, "This preseason, the Lord has led our staff and team to dig deeply into our minute-by-minute process – the details – of every aspect from recovery, to prayer, to set pieces, to breaking down technique and tactics with intricacy. We set our sights on Sunday as we prepare for Riverside, and we will be ready."
The Titans applied pressure early with three shots and three corner kicks in the opening 5:14. Fullerton directed two of the three shot attempts at the Liberty net, but Van Noord made a pair of stops to keep the game scoreless.
Liberty began to find momentum in the 13th minute. Sophomore forward Baylee Gillmore sent a crossing pass to Knoebel, who was positioned directly in front of the Fullerton goal frame. Knoebel chipped a shot from six yards out, however, Stuart corralled the attempt, preventing the Lady Flames from lighting up the scoreboard.
Knoebel had another look at the net in the 22nd minute, creating space from the Titans defense. Knoebel then airmailed a shot, which sailed over the Fullerton crossbar.
Playing in her hometown, Liberty senior midfielder Brittany Aanderud recorded the final shot on goal for the Lady Flames in the opening period. The Fullerton, Calif., native aimed a low attempt at the Fullerton net, which was thwarted by Stuart, eventually leading to a scoreless period.
The Titans outshot Liberty, 7-3, in the first period, including 4-2 on goal. Fullerton also held a 3-0 advantage on corner kicks.
In the second half, Van Noord kept Fullerton off the board with a highlight reel save in the 62nd minute. Following a free kick played into the middle, Connie Caliz blasted a short shot at the netminder, who dove and deflected the ball off her arm before smothering it to prevent the score.
Sixty two seconds later, Knoebel set up a scoring opportunity of her own. Breaking away from the Titans defense, Knoebel found herself in a one-on-one situation, but Stuart made the stop.
Elmers recorded the final shot on goal for Liberty, which resulted in another save for Fullerton in the 81st minute. The Titans countered with the late goal nearly three minutes later to seal the 1-0 final.
Liberty returns to Titan Stadium on Sunday, closing out its stay at the Fullerton Tournament against UC Riverside. The Highlanders lost to George Washington, 1-0, due to a golden goal earlier, Friday afternoon. Game time is slated for 2 p.m. EST.